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Under New Management? — The Culture Feels Different for the New York Mets

Photo: Bryan Green

I grew up, and live in a pretty small town in northern New Jersey. Near my home is a locally owned gym that I’ve spent some (nearly not enough) time in. Every couple of years or so they’d put up this huge red, white, and blue banner declaring:

– UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT –

It always made me chuckle to myself. The same people own the business, and when gym goers would complain too much about different things going on in the gym, lo and behold, that sign would go up. Nothing ever really changed about this gym. But that banner would offer an awful lot of promises and provide hope for us gym goers and the cycle would continue.

Being a fan of the New York Mets over the years has often made me feel the same way.

Until this year.

Perhaps it is because I’m as big of a fan of this little gym as I am of the New York Mets where I’m hopeful that things might change for the better, but this year just feels different.

Just like Lucy would pull away the football from Charlie Brown at the last moment when he’d try to kick the football in the Peanuts cartoons, perhaps the New York Mets are doing this again to me, and their fans. However, with the recent addition of Brodie Van Wagenen as General Manager, I felt then, as I do now that things in Queens just feel different around this franchise.

— UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT — If you will.

Spring training had ups and downs, as all of us over at Amazin’ Prospects observed. In fact, over these last few days, this column I’ve been planning out has changed pretty dramatically to tell you the truth.

Pete Alonso, a highlight of this year’s spring training, has shown tremendous promise and in my view deserves to make the Opening Day roster. Reporters are now saying that Alonso will indeed make the opening day roster.  He hit .368 with 4 home runs and 11 RBIs the first base prospect had a breakout spring, seemingly all over social media with his power on full display.

At the same time, Dominic Smith had a strong spring as well showing promise, perhaps even a return to what many scouts and fans were expecting of him after he was drafted by the Mets in the first round and 11th overall in 2011. Smith hit .321 with 2 home runs and 12 RBI in Spring Training this year.

It felt like the same ol’ Mets with injuries to INF Jed Lowrie and the deterioration of the relationship between the New York Mets and C Devin Mesoraco. Then came all the news surrounding frustrations expressed by RHP Noah Syndergaard coupled with Jacob deGrom not getting a contract extension with the Mets (until the end of the Spring). It felt like the cycle was continuing in Queens, despite the new management.

I remember the frustrations that surrounded Matt Harvey from the Mets. Eventually, it led to Harvey being dumped to the Cincinnati Reds for Mesoraco. The frustrations were largely around discipline issues that the organization was unable to work out with their player. I thought then as I do now that it was a mistake on the Mets’ part to allow the relationship between them and Harvey to deteriorate so dramatically, creating an untenable situation. Discipline issues can and should be handled in-house.

Noah Syndergaard’s comments earlier this week expressing frustration over Jacob deGrom’s lack of contract extension at the time as well as the workout schedule sending the Mets from Florida to Syracuse, NY for a workout in the city of their new Triple-A affiliate before rushing to Washington DC for opening day against the Nationals sure felt like the beginning of the deterioration of the relationship between the Mets and another one of their star pitchers. Make no mistake Syndergaard is a star (and the only Mets pitcher with a World Series win since 1986). While I saw lots of fans taking the side of the organization over Syndergaard, based on his performance in New York, he has every right to express frustrations about the schedule right before the upcoming season. Those frustrations were pretty valid ones too. The most concerning point was that the players implied that they felt like they had no voice with management.

That changed the other day with Jacob deGrom signing a 5-year extension with the New York Mets. While the feeling around the team is that the Mets can’t hold onto their stars, another 5 years of deGrom is a welcome change and provides a different feel to this Mets regime than from ones past. From a baseball standpoint you can make the argument that with the longevity of pitchers, the fact that deGrom is clearly in his prime now, and his age (30), an extension before the player hits free agency can be considered risky. The fact is deGrom’s extension has way more to do than just one player. It’s about culture. The Mets sent a message to their team and their players that if you play well for New York, you can get paid here. It sure seems that tensions have died down a bit. There was a video of Noah Syndergaard waving the Syracuse flag during their workout the other day.

I’ve been on record feeling good about the off-season additions the Mets made. 2B Robinson Cano is a strong asset for the next few years and even better came along with RHP Edwin Diaz who looks like he’ll be a solid closer for the next few years. Signing back RHP Jeurys Familia provides a strong setup man. With these additions and more made during this offseason, you can’t help but to feel that as much as the Mets have talked about building around their starting pitching over the years, that they are finally accomplishing this.

We’ll have to wait and see if the cycle is broken for the Mets. GM Brodie Van Wagenen has promised since he started his regime with the Mets that the team will win now and in the future. We’ve seen this in all levels of the organization punctuated by the focus on small ball. Bunting, and hitting the other way are emphasized at the minor league level for the first time in a long time. I’m hopeful that player development will continue to grow within the Mets farm system and that it will produce dividends at the major league level as well.

Or I could be wrong and have fallen for that — UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT — sign once again.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. holmer

    March 28, 2019 at 9:02 am

    I agree with everything you said except the Harvey comments. Harvey acted like a prima donna and flaunted it publicly. The Mets weren’t at fault for what happened to their relationship, it was 90% Harvey and his “above the law” attitude.

    • Alex Zeller

      March 28, 2019 at 10:37 am

      Thanks for reading! Don’t mistake my comments on Harvey as if he’s blameless. My point is the Mets allowed that relationship to deteriorate into an untenable situation. It’s something that seems to have repeated over the years. Instead of handling discipline issues in house the Mets allowed Page Six to handle it which very much didn’t help matters. At the end of it in exchange for Harvey the Mets got a catcher most of Major League Baseball doesn’t see as a major league option who signed a minor league deal and now doesn’t want to live up to it.

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